January 14, 2019 John Tough

There are nearly 300 companies within the Fortune 1,000 that are broadly characterized by an industrial focus. The medium revenue for these economy-anchoring firms is nearly $4.9 billion, resulting in over $9 trillion in market capitalization. But revenue growth in this space is a far cry from the 20%+ range of the high-tech software companies beginning to dot the economy. Given the total addressable market and slow-moving perception of these industries, many market-hungry start-ups attempt to attack (or serve) this industry. But, running a technology company to serve the industrial verticals contains many hidden traps. In fact, the slow operating and…

August 16, 2018 John Tough

Listen to Mike Maples on the Origin Podcast here It was one of the better venture-related podcasts in the past few months. Here are my notes: Risk-Return: Get paid for your risk The reality is that every profession has a top 10% Managers are too reliant on anecdotal wisdom as opposed to first principal or theoretical basis Get paid for the risk you take in two ways Invest before the Series A firms (series +1 firms) Getting ownership at a lower price basis Get pricing power by not competing with big firms at pre-product market fit: get a real chance…

January 2, 2018 John Tough

Over the holiday I wrapped up a number of books that had been piling up on my bedside table. Hit Refresh was one of those books and I am glad I read it. The main reason I enjoyed the book was the underlying sense of optimism and progress that Satya implies through his vision of the future workforce and broader society. I similarly enjoyed his open willingness to revisit core principles and identify which foundations (people, culture, products) to support to enable the next chapter at Microsoft. Here are some quotes from the book that I highlighted… On leadership &…

December 31, 2017 John Tough

2017 was a year of change for me. I started out the year as Chief Revenue Officer at Choose Energy, culminating a 4.5 year role with the company that began as the first non-engineer in 2012. With the sale of Choose Energy in Q2 and my responsibility with the company melting away, I experienced a brief, but noticeable emotional lull. I had (re)started my dream job, working in venture capital at the intersection of technology and industry with the Invenergy Future Fund but I was missing the action of day to day operations. Working at Choose Energy with world-class employees…

August 14, 2017 John Tough

With the digitization of traditional industry, software solutions are increasing their focus on the energy and industrial verticals. At the Invenergy Future Fund we are seeing many pitches a week for companies seeking capital to grow their business. As part of our diligence, we like to sit in on a few sales calls – usually to prospective customers that we introduce. Through those calls, we have seen three common mistakes that start-ups make while pitching traditional industrial firms. We list them below to serve as a guide of pitfalls to avoid:    1) Buzzword blockers: Many sales decks pitching the…

August 7, 2017 John Tough

This post is a bit late but with the whirlwind first few quarters behind me, I finally had time to reflect on joining the Invenergy Future Fund. We had our first close in May and the team has been going full steam since 2016… – When I review potential venture investments, I look for a special team with leading & complementary industry experience that is targeting a big market by addressing a specific, impactful problem. Using those parameters, the Invenergy Future Fund was a personal investment that was too good to pass up. What is the Future Fund? The Future…

August 7, 2017 John Tough

On a recent RECODE/DECODE podcast where Kara Swisher interviews Frances Frei, the SVP of Leadership & Strategy at Uber. Frances is a renowned leadership coach with a special skill at turnarounds and an unparalleled optimism and belief in an individual’s redemption potential and trajectory. In the podcast Kara and Frances cover Frances’ 3 key to modern leadership: 1) Making others better as a result of your presence. This is usually a “catch-all” line, but the impact needs to be internalized: are you as a leader actively focused on improving those around you? 2) Having strong performance outlast your presence. Replace…

July 27, 2017 John Tough

I like to joke that if I could, I might just go back to a younger “me” and punch him in the face. I had a dream job as an associate at Kleiner Perkins. I was working at a storied firm, had access to world class mentors and investors, and had premier investment opportunities literally walking through the door. One of the main problems I faced? Saying no. Saying no in venture capital is hard. I saw hopeful, brilliant and dedicated individuals dedicating their lives efforts to potentially transformative ideas. And as a VC, you have to say no to…

July 17, 2017 John Tough

Over the course of 4-5 years with a start-up, I got a first-row seat into the ups and downs of scaling a company. One of my main takeaways was that you have to enjoy the journey. If you only seek the destination you won’t last the trip. And to enjoy the trip you have to work with people who make the miles a bit more enjoyable. You don’t have to like them and hang out on the weekends, but you have to respect them. Respect their perspective, their experience, and their contribution. Respect enables trust and trust is a prerequisite…

July 10, 2017 John Tough

As I wrote about last week, Choose Energy was sold earlier this year. Beginning in 2015, Choose Energy had multiple casual M&A discussions. But, we did not formally engage until we knew we were ready as a company. With a few months delay giving me a bit of clarity, I wanted to share some advice / insights that stand out to me about the process and how to prepare for our own deal: M&A is hard. Very, very hard. Finding the right buyer, at the right price at the perfect time in their strategic initiative game plan is rare. Choose…